Structural dependence of the state on capital

Adam Przeworski, Michael Wallerstein

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Capitalism is a system in which many scarce resources are owned privately, and decisions about allocating them are a private prerogative. Democracy is a system through which people as citizens may express preferences about allocating resources that they do not privately own. Hence the perennial question of political theory and of practical politics concerns the competence of these two systems with regard to each other. Is it possible for governments to control a capitalist economy? In particular, is it possible to steer the economy against the interests and preferences of those who control productive wealth? The central and only distinctive claim of Marxist political theory is that under capitalism all governments must respect and protect the essential claims of those who own the productive wealth of society. Capitalists are endowed with public power, power which no formal institutions can overcome (Luxemburg 1970; Pashukanis 1951). People may have political rights, they may vote, and governments may pursue popular mandates. But the effective capacity of any government to attain whatever are its goals is circumscribed by the public power of capital. The nature of political forces that come into office does not alter these limits, it is claimed, for they are structural – a characteristic of the system, not of the occupants of governmental positions nor of the winners of elections. During the past 20 years Marxists have developed several theories to explain why all governments in capitalist societies are bound to act in the interests of capitalists.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationSelected Works of Michael Wallerstein
    Subtitle of host publicationThe Political Economy of Inequality, Unions, and Social Democracy
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    Number of pages28
    ISBN (Electronic)9780511619793
    ISBN (Print)9780521886888
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2008

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Social Sciences


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